National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book Number 48
Posted on Tuesday, 5 June 2001
UPDATED 29 JUNE 2001 - The Secret Briefs and the Secret Evidence
Edited by Thomas S. Blanton
Compiled by John Prados, Eddie Meadows, William Burr, and Michael Evans
"But out of the gobbledygook, comes
a very clear thing: [unclear] you can't trust the government;
you can't believe what they say; and you can't rely on their
judgment; and the... the implicit infallibility of presidents,
which has been an accepted thing in America, is badly hurt by
this, because it shows that people do things the President wants
to do even though it's wrong, and the President can be wrong."
- H.R. Haldeman to President Nixon
Monday, 14 June 1971, 3:09 p.m.
Thirty years ago this month, President
Nixon picked up his Sunday
Times on June 13, 1971 to see the wedding picture of his daughter Tricia and
himself in the Rose Garden, leading the left-hand side of the front page.
Next to that picture, on the right, was the headline over Neil Sheehan's
first story on the Pentagon Papers, "Vietnam Archive: Pentagon Study
Traces 3 Decades of Growing U.S. Involvement."
Nixon did not read the story (so he
says on tape in his 12:18 p.m. phone call with Alexander Haig).
On Monday evening, June 14, Attorney General John Mitchell warned the Times
via phone and telegram against further publication; and on Tuesday June 15,
the government sought and won an restraining order against the Times - an
injunction subsequently extended to the Washington Post when that paper
picked up the cause.
The epic legal battle that ensued culminated on June
30, 1971 in the U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 decision to lift the prior
restraints - arguably the most important Supreme Court case ever on freedom
of the press.
The National Security Archive has now posted on its Web site the following
documentation from the Pentagon Papers case - to our knowledge the first
time this material has ever been published together:
Audio and transcripts of ten telephone and meeting conversations from the
recently-released Nixon tapes, recorded on Sunday, June 13, Monday, June 14,
and Tuesday, June 15, detailing the reactions of President Nixon and his
aides to the Pentagon Papers' publication and Nixon's decision to take legal
action against the New York Times.
The Supreme Court's decision(s) from June 30, 1971 (each Justice felt the
need to weigh in).
The brief for the government to the Supreme Court.
The brief for the New York Times.
The brief for the Washington Post.
The amicus brief of 27 members of Congress.
The audio from the Supreme Court tapes of the actual oral arguments
presented by Solicitor General Erwin Griswold, Times attorney Alexander
Bickel, and Post attorney William Glendon.
The transcript for the oral argument, since the argument, on Saturday,
June 26, lasted two hours and 13 minutes.
The court material covers the end of the Pentagon Papers case.
But it is on
the beginning of the case that we now have genuinely new evidence, in the
form of the Nixon tapes declassified earlier this year pursuant to the
lawsuit by University of Wisconsin historian Stanley Kutler and the
Citizen Litigation Group.
This Electronic Briefing Book also features, for the first time published
anywhere, the audio and transcripts of Nixon's conversations on June 13, 14
and 15 after publication of the Pentagon Papers began.
associate Eddie Meadows copied the recordings at the National Archives and
painstakingly transcribed them, as part of our long-term documentation
project on Vietnam, under the direction of Archive fellow John Prados.
This briefing book also includes the relevant excerpts from the following
The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (1978)
Years of Upheaval (1982)
The Haldeman Diaries (1995)
The Secret Briefs and the Secret Evidence:
In coming days, this Electronic Briefing Book will add copies of the
specific documents in the Pentagon Papers that were cited by the government
in various public and secret legal papers as creating immediate harm to U.S.
Archive senior fellow John Prados has carried out an
exhaustive cross-referencing project using the recently-declassified secret
briefs submitted by the government to the courts, together with each of the
various editions of the Papers, including the New York Times paperback
version (highly condensed and selective), the multivolume Government
Printing Office version (officially declassified), Senator Mike Gravel's
edition read into a Senate subcommittee record and subsequently published by
Beacon, and the four negotiating volumes (which Daniel Ellsberg did not
leak) declassified in 1977.
The Pentagon Papers - Volume 1
The Pentagon Papers - Volume 2
The Pentagon Papers - Volume 3
The Pentagon Papers - Volume 4